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On Finding Good in the Suffering

January 12, 2021   Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Lectionary: 306)

Reading I   Heb 2:5-12
It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come,
of which we are speaking.
Instead, someone has testified somewhere:

What is man that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under his feet.

In “subjecting” all things to him,
he left nothing not “subject to him.”
Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,”
but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor”
because he suffered death,
he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,”
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
He who consecrates
and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers” saying:

I will proclaim your name to my brethren,
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.

Responsorial Psalm   8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9
R. (see 7) You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.

Alleluia   See 1 Thes 2:13
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of God, not as the word of men,
but as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   Mk 1:21-28
Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

By Melissa Velez 

This past December I began to read the well-loved Catholic memoir, “He Leadeth Me.” It’s written by an American priest who was captured by the Russian army during World War II and imprisoned for 23 years by the Soviets. I was struck by how timely it was to be reading this story during a pandemic that was keeping me (and thousands of others) “imprisoned” at home. While my current experience is not the same as being a prisoner of war, I found myself connecting strongly to his powerful words.  As I read about this priest whose life was completely upended, I found myself both deeply relating and horribly convicted.

Fr. Walter writes with a jarringly truthful spirit, not shying away from the realities of what it means to accept the will of God, and what that really is— “Not the will of God as we might wish it, or as we might have envisioned it, or as we thought in our poor human wisdom it ought to be. But rather the will of God as God envisioned it and revealed to us each day in the created situations with which he presented us.”

I think after reading those lines, I could do nothing but close my book and sit still for a while.

I savored the rest of the memoir throughout the Christmas season, reading it in the light of my own personal situation, my anger at the way the year had turned out, and feeling unhappy and drained by work. It was a thoughtful time for me.

Today, the second Tuesday in Ordinary Time, we read of Jesus crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. I’ve heard that reading and that line over and over throughout the years, but this year I really stopped to think about it, through the lens of He Leadeth Me. Jesus did taste death for everyone, but it was by the grace of God.

His suffering was good.

Not something bad that became good, but a gift through the grace of God. Admittedly it’s hard for me to imagine or accept this, because I have enough trouble believing that my all suffering can result in anything good, let alone that it may actually be a gift.

Fr. Walter too, while laboring away in the Soviet work camps, came to the same realization: suffering is good. He likened his years of pain and sorrow to the redemptive suffering of Jesus, and recognized that through grace his experiences were transforming.

This is the idea I’ll be meditating on for some time because this year brought a lot of suffering, both for myself and the world. But like most situations, it can always benefit from a change in perspective. I will be asking myself in this New Year, how have my sufferings transformed me? If in any way they have brought me closer to the heart of God, and to having a heart more like God’s, then what a gift indeed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Melissa Velez is from Southern California, born and raised, and a current Cincinnati, Ohio transplant. She has also lived in Portland, Oregon and Salt Lake City, Utah. A teacher by education, she now works in social services as a client advocate at St. Vincent de Paul. She is a lover of all things beautiful and educational, most especially poetry, the performing arts, and travel (goal: visit all 50 states, 30 more to go!) Three things she is constantly craving: sushi, matcha lattes, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. She has written for NET Ministries, LifeTeen, and The Catholic Woman. Find more about her here

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